Ning, the online tool that allows anyone to create their own social network, recently announced that it will no longer offer its services for free. Current users will have to upgrade to the site’s paid services or leave the site.
This leaves many journalists and educators in the cold who use the site as a free way to communicate among each other or with students or classes. If your budget is tight, there are several alternatives to Ning that are waiting to take your business.
Grou.ps is a site with many features similar to Ning that allows users to create an online social network. The site offers up to the 10 GB of storage or 100 GB of data transfer for free. There’s even a group dedicated to those making the transition from Ning to Grou.ps.
Like Ning, Groupsite offers users the option to create discussion forums, calendars, and have many different users on a single social network. Unlike Ning, Groupsite’s basic service will remain free. The “Basic” platform is ad-supported and includes 250 MB of storage.
SocialGO is another site for building online communities and social networks. It’s free plan offers up to 1 GB of storage and allows users to create custom profiles, sub-groups, forums, blogs, and post media such as text, photos and video.
WordPress fans who don’t mind getting their hands dirty with a little code may favor BuddyPress. The open source plugin builds on the WordPress platform and offers users the ability to create profiles, groups, forums and send private messages.
While not an exact replica of the Ning framework, Posterous allows users to post, publish and share various media in a blog-like atmosphere. Multiple users can contribute a single feed, in effect creating an online community. Tumblr, a popular microblogging site, offers similar features.